Ontario is a province in east-central Canada that shares a border with the United States from Minnesota to New York.
The largest cities in Ontario include Canada’s largest city and Ontario’s provincial capital, Toronto, and the national capital, Ottawa.
Climate and Geography
At 1,076,395 km2 Ontario is enormous. If it were a country, it would be the 30th largest in the world. Bordering on Hudson’s Bay in the north and the Great Lakes and USA in the south, Ontario is slightly larger than Egypt and a touch smaller than Bolivia. Like most of Canada, the majority of that space is thinly populated. To keep things simple Ontario is often discussed in terms of north and south. Northern Ontario comprises 87% of the land area, but only 6% of the population whereas the more temperate and fertile southern Ontario comprises only 13% of the land area, but is home to 94% of the population. This is probably the part that you would visit.
Geographically, Ontario is can be divided into three sections: 1) The Canadian Shield, which is basically an enormous plate of rock covered in a relatively thin layer of soil that extends from the northwest to the southeast of the province, accounting for more than half of the land area; 2) The Hudson’s Bay lowlands in the far north and northeast, which is an inhospitable area of low-lying wetlands and swamps sandwiched between Hudson’s Bay and the Canadian Shield that makes up about ¼ of Ontario’s land area; and 3) The Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Valley in the south which is the most densely populated and climactically pleasant part of the province.
Ontario’s geography makes it extremely amenable to lakes and rivers; the province has more than 250,000 lakes. Among those lakes are the Great Lakes (a string of enormous lakes along the US-Canada border), which include Lake Superior, the largest freshwater lake in the world, as well as two more of the five largest freshwater lakes in the world. Ontario is also home to the famous Niagara Falls, which is also sits on the US border.
Northern Ontario has a sub-arctic climate. It’s really, really cold most of the year, and kind of warm in the summer. For this reason few people go there. The south however, is more hospitable. In January, the coldest month, the average temperature ranges from about -13 °C in the southeast to -4 °C in the southwest, and in July the hottest month, the average temperature ranges from 19 °C in the southeast to 24 °C in the southwest.
Ontario, with it’s numerous lakes and vast tracts of wilderness, has outdoors opportunities across the board. Ontario has a well-established reputation as one of Canada’s best destinations for outdoors tourism, so facilities, rentals, and guides are never hard to come by. There is hiking, trekking, and climbing of all levels. Whitewater rafting and kayaking are abundant, and in the winter there is also good skiing and snowboarding. Two of the more unusual activities in the province are freshwater surfing and scuba diving. The surfing is unusual because it is done on a lake on waves churned up by winds up to 40-knots. The scuba diving is unique because, as one website put it, “it’s fresh water, it’s #@*% cold, and there are a lot of very well preserved shipwrecks, as a result of those other two factors.”
A few of Ontario’s unique natural landmarks (other than Niagara Falls and the biggest freshwater lake in the world) include Wasaga Beach, the world’s longest freshwater beach, the Temagami old growth pine forest, and Manitoulin Island, the largest freshwater island in the world.
- Stand-up paddle boarding
- Scuba diving (wreck)
- Surfing (all levels)
- Hang gliding
- Sky diving
- Bungee jumping
- Hot air ballooning
- Whitewater rafting
- Kayaking (river and lake)
- Caving and spelunking
- Hiking/trekking (all levels)
- Rock climbing (all levels)
- Ice climbing
- Mountain Biking (novice to expert)
- Horseback Riding
- Skiing and snowboarding
- Cross-country skiing
On a Budget?
- In Ontario the very cheapest beds can be found in shared dormitories and hostels starting around $20 USD per night, but many cost more. Most campsites start at around $30 USD or more per night, but have low rates for additional people, and can be economical with a group.
- If you stick to low-end restaurants and groceries food and drink in Ontario is fairly reasonable. Cheap greasy spoons will serve breakfast for as low as $4 or 5 USD and lunch can be for $6 – 8 USD. But, if you really want to economize, you can cut those prices in half cruising the bulk aisle of the local grocery store.
Images (in order) courtesy of JDB Photos, Insight Imaging: John A Ryan Photography, joneboi, bensonkua, Steve took it, Robert Scott Photography.ca, bensonkua, Robbie’s Photo Art, Derek Purdy, pmorgan, Steve took it, and Steve took it on Flickr.